One in four families 'wrongly billed by energy supplier'

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One in four families is wrongly billed by its energy supplier, shock new research published today reveals.

It’s further evidence that energy firms’ cock-ups are leaving hard-up people in debt.

In fact more than 9 million households have unexpectedly ended up owing money to their energy supplier after a discrepancy between an estimated bill and a ‘real’ bill.

The average amount owed after an incorrect bill is now £152, according to uSwitch.

And energy firms – criticised for poor complaints handling by watchdog Ofgem last week – are failing to deal with their mistakes quickly enough.

On average the firms’ billing mistakes take almost two months to sort out.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, said: “Consumers are paying hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year on household bills – the least they should expect is for these bills to be accurate.

“Billing blunders can cause consumers to end up out of pocket, as well as wasting time and effort trying to get the issue resolved.”

The shaming figures come after the Deputy Prime Minister’s promise yesterday to force the Big Six energy firms to tell customers if they are on the wrong deal.

In a speech about the government’s Green Deal, Nick Clegg said: “From this autumn, your supplier will have to contact you with the best tariff for you.”

Under the terms of the Green Deal, from autumn energy firms will be forced to invest in improving people’s homes to cut heat loss and therefore reduce the cost of bills.

“We will be requiring the energy companies to provide an estimated £1.3bn a year of support for energy efficiency,” Mr Clegg said, adding that £540m of the amount would go towards helping the worst-off families.

However the cash will be reclaimed from customers through their bills, leaving those close to fuel poverty in no better position. That prompted critics to slam the plans.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “Nick Clegg will have to do much more to convince people it will make sense to get into debt with a Green Deal loan to pay for energy efficiency measures that energy suppliers can't give away right now.”

Caroline Flint, Labour's Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary: said: “The Government is completely clueless when it comes to helping families and pensioners struggling with their fuel bills.

“Our energy market needs a complete overhaul, but this Government is only fiddling at the margins.”